What Paula and Trouper taught me
I was warming up to the idea of getting a dog in the city. I’m originally from the Midwest suburbs and always felt a dog should have a yard of green grass. But Paula was persistent. After I relented she then announced we would select the dog from a shelter. I thought a shelter dog would come with a slew of problems. But Paula was persistent about the rescue dog. So again I relented—but on one condition—we get a small dog with all body parts intact.
Paula returned from the New York Humane Society with the news that she found the perfect dog. A 2-year old male Bichon Frise/Poodle mix. However she was reluctant to say that he was missing an eye. She learned that he was hit by a car on the upper west side. He had no identification. A kind person picked him off the street and took him to the local dog pound. After a search for his owner proved fruitless he was scheduled to be euthanized when a visit from the Humane Society saved his life.
They performed all necessary surgeries sustained from the accident. His left eye could not be saved however. After a period of recovery they put him up for adoption. Paula fell in love with him and it was pretty much a done deal. She named him Trouper, because he surly was.
However, I reacted differently. I felt a non-perfect dog would somehow reflect badly on me. If the dog (my child) was not perfect, then by extension, I was not perfect. Maybe people would stare and make comments about how sorry they were for the dog, and sorry for me? I didn’t want this kind of attention. Plus as an artist/designer my personal esthetic indicated a face to be symmetrical.
I told Paula I would wash my hands of the situation...that the dog was hers and hers alone. Of course it only took a few hours for me to warm up to Trouper when I saw how happy he was to have a home. He immediately took to his new surroundings and rolled on his back on the carpet and sofa for hours.
Yes, I fell in love with the dog and felt ashamed for my childish behavior. He taught me that it was possible to be totally devoted and to love something that was not perfect. He opened my heart and my eyes to this fact. Paula knew this already. I was wrong. Trouper was perfect as he was. Lesson learned.
For the next 13 years we had the pleasure of Trouper becoming a part of our family. He became a rather spoiled and pampered pooch. Vacations were postponed and we often favored being at home with him than being out with humans.
Flash forward. Paula is diagnosed with 4th stage lung cancer. She had been battling the disease for almost a year when one night she took a fall and broke her pelvis. She had to stay at the hospital for 5 weeks trying to manage her pain. Trouper started to get separation anxiety and would bark when left alone in the apartment. Neighbors complained. Apartment management put us on notice. So now there was additional pressure to find people who could watch Trouper while I did hospital visits. Sometimes he would go to doggy day care. Fees were mounting. He was not happy.
Around this time I noticed Trouper losing weight. He began to cough for minutes at a time and then faint. Our veterinarian’s x-ray confirmed what we expected. Trouper had an enlarged heart with restricted blood and airflow to the lungs. His liver was failing also. The vet indicated that heroic measures could keep him alive for 3 or 4 weeks.
I had a decision to make. Paula’s illness and the thought of having to kennel a sick dog made the decision a little easier. So Trouper sacrificed himself for the situation. In baseball parlance‚ Trouper took one for the team. I don’t mean to say that Trouper developed a life threatening illness to help things move forward. But I recognize the synchronicity.
I was to bring him back to the vets later that day. Trouper did not seem ill at all. His tail was wagging as I took him to the park and we had hot dogs and a big plate of chicken and rice from a vendor. His last meal.
Trouper allowed me to look for the light in a dark situation. I can now spend more time with Paula. This was another lesson he taught me. I thank you Trouper for your gifts and for Paula for bringing him into my life.
Steve J. Hill